When it comes to keeping nightlife cool, the velvet rope has earned its place, and in Las Vegas' ever-evolving party scene, there's no shortage of strategically slung boundaries meant to isolate the A-listers from the rest of us plebian partiers.
But after a losing night on the tables and a greasy binge at a sub-par buffet somewhere on the Strip, who really needs to add ego-bruising to the mix with an in-your-face ousting at the velvet rope?
Enter the casino center bar -- those open-to-the-gambling-floor bastions of drinking and dancing found in nearly every Las Vegas casino, where cover charges, snooty doormen and paparazzi-preening patrons are refreshingly out of the equation.
Paris Hilton and her entourage might not be making an appearance anytime soon at these egalitarian watering holes (and is that really such a bad thing?), but casino center bars are getting more blinged out by the minute in Vegas.
Despite easy access to the gambling floor, there's usually a threshold of sorts and a décor change that paints a distinct mood inside the center bar, creating an oasis from the perpetually chattering slot machines and clicking roulette wheels just outside.
And if the steady, 'round-the-clock crowds of hotel guests, gamblers and general Vegas gawkers flowing off the casino floor and into center bars at spots like Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino and MGM Grand are any indication, it's a trend that's here to stay.
Here are some of the hottest casino center bars to hit while cruising the Strip.
eyecandy sound lounge & bar
Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino
Opened in fall 2007, eyecandy ups the party ante at Mandalay Bay. In the center of the casino floor, the lounge-style digs feature interactive table technology where you doodle with your digits on a touch screen to send flirtatious messages to people in other pods, the semi-private circular confines that center on the tables. Messages from other partiers pop up on your table's screen as live-action scenes are projected, lending a voyeuristic element to the fun. If you're just up for cocktails without the interactive element, snag a seat at the sleek tear-shaped bar and scope the action on the dance floor, where LED tiles get illuminated by a frenzy of dancing feet.
Let the L.A. uber-beautiful set preen their feathers at LAX -- Luxor's posh nightclub -- and head to Flight on the casino floor instead for a more laid-back layover between roulette rounds. The same Los Angeles designer behind JET's sleek decor fitted out Flight with Caribbean-blue banquettes and chocolate-colored lounges that positively demand canoodling. The good news is you can still get your game on here, too, should your wallet desire, with intimate blackjack tables designed for couples and friends built into the scenery. Open 24 hours, the bar's been a nonstop party since it first opened in July 2007.
The pyramid may dominate the casino's façade, but Luxor has long been in the process of phasing out its interior Egyptian touches in favor of a more sophisticated décor scheme. Open all night, Liquidity upped the center bar scene's bling factor when it popped up at Luxor in December 2007 in place of a former high-limit gambling area. Smack dab on the casino floor, the bar employs water in a big way as part of an over-the-top design. Using fiber optics, images are projected onto a massive water wall awash with the spray of 4,000 nozzles that pulsate in tune to the music -- if you think looking into a campfire is mesmerizing, be prepared to nearly hallucinate at this effect.
When Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino opened on the Strip in the former location of Aladdin in April 2007, it was only natural that an alluring center bar be included in the new design. Heart Bar's leather-clad go-go dancers that double as cocktail waitresses, a house-of-mirrors design ethic and the lounge's overall moody red glow ensure that things stay edgy 24 hours a day. There's no official dance floor, but the tabletops are hardly off limits.
The spot to kick off or wind down your evening at MGM Grand is inside this vortex of uninhibited imbibing that revolves under a psychedelic sculpture spiraling over the bar. The huge circular bar is the heart of things at Centrifuge, and people-watching doesn't get any better than on a Friday or Saturday night when the pre-clubbing crowds bound for MGM nightclub's Studio 54 and Tabu pop in for aperitifs. Opt for one of the bar's specialty fruit-infused bourbons or tequilas to start your night with a bang.